- Created on 02 April 2013
“No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.”
– Voting Rights Act of 1965
During recent Supreme Court oral arguments in Shelby County v. Holder, Justice Antonin Scalia called a key part of the Voting Rights Act – Section 5 – a “racial entitlement.” Section 5 requires that the Justice Department or a federal court “pre-clear” any changes made to voting procedures by covered jurisdictions to ensure they do not “deny or abridge the right to vote on account of race or color.”
This act was established to fix a broken system, and it remains relevant today. As long as blatant voter suppression measures such as voter ID laws and district gerrymandering are being used to keep certain groups from the polls, the Voting Rights Act – in its entirety – remains necessary. And to clear up any confusion that Justice Scalia has or anyone who found merit in his argument: Voting “rights” are indeed that – a right guaranteed to every citizen of the United States. They are not a special privilege. They are not a gift. And they certainly don’t constitute a “racial entitlement.”
Justice Scalia’s comments are a shameful reiteration of a right-wing political interpretation of the Constitution. The Voting Rights Act was a response to an inarguably unjust and unfair system for voting in this country.
Prior to the Voting Rights Act, millions of African Americans, primarily in the South, were forced to run a gauntlet of “voting qualifications or prerequisites,” including ludicrous literacy tests, discriminatory poll taxes, and other bureaucratic restrictions. And when those measures failed, Blacks were routinely subjected to intimidation, economic sanctions, beatings and even murder. The 1964 murders of three voting rights activists at the hands of Mississippi Klansmen and the March 7, 1965 Bloody Sunday beating of peaceful voting rights marchers in Selma by Alabama State troopers are horrific examples.
While there has been undeniable progress since 1965, voting rights abuses are still sadly a part of the American electoral landscape. In fact, every presidential election of this new century has been plagued by voting problems – from “hanging chads,” to Tea Party-backed campaigns of Election Day intimidation to new voter ID restrictions. Cut backs in early voting even led to a Florida woman, 102-year-old Desiline Victor, having to stand in line for three hours to vote in November’s presidential election.
The Voting Rights Act, and specifically its Section 5 preclearance provisions, is still needed to protect against such abuses. While Justice Scalia is either confused or misguided in his characterization of the right to vote as a racial entitlement, Congress upheld this basic right in 2006 by overwhelmingly reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act for another 25 years. House Speaker, John Boehner said at the time, “The Voting Rights Act has been an effective tool in protecting a right that is fundamental to our democracy and renewing this landmark law will ensure that each and every citizen can continue to exercise their right to vote without the threat of intimidation or harassment.” We intend to hold Speaker Boehner to those words. If the Supreme Court declares any part of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional, Congress will have a final chance to keep Section 5 alive.
Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League.
- Created on 02 April 2013
Why is the National Rifle Association so afraid of the truth? There are many misconceptions about guns and gun violence swirling around in Americans’ minds —and in many cases, this misinformation is no accident.
For years the NRA has blocked the truth and actively fought against and prevented research in the causes and costs of gun violence because they don’t want Americans to know the truth about guns, how to prevent gun violence, and how to make themselves and their children safer. Why else would they have Congress pull gun injury prevention research funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health?
Why have we put up so long with efforts to block all research on a huge public health threat that injures and kills tens of thousands of Americans every year?
As Drs. Arthur Kellermann and Frederick Rivara wrote an article titled, “Silencing the Science on Gun Research” in the February 2013 Journal of the American Medical Association. They wrote, “What can be done to reduce the number of US residents who die each year from firearms, currently more than 31,000 annually? . . . The nation might be in a better position to act if medical and public health researchers had continued to study these issues as diligently as some of us did between 1985 and 1997.”
Instead, they note that beginning in 1996, pro-gun members of Congress began mounting an all-out effort to eliminate any funding for research connected to gun injury prevention. And as Drs. Kellermann and Rivara explain, this continued refusal to fund any research isn’t just an academic matter. “Injury prevention research can have real and lasting effects. Over the last 20 years, the number of Americans dying in motor vehicle crashes has decreased by 31 percent. Deaths from fires and drowning have been reduced even more, by 38 percent and 52 percent, respectively. This progress was achieved without banning automobiles, swimming pools, or matches. Instead, it came from translating research findings into effective interventions. Given the chance, could researchers achieve similar progress with firearm violence? It will not be possible to find out unless Congress rescinds its moratorium on firearm injury prevention research.”
Why is the NRA afraid of seeking the truth and having citizens make informed decisions about how best to ensure their and their children’s safety? Their concerted campaign to hide the truth and block research is finally facing new scrutiny and opposition. President Obama’s proposed gun safety package would end the freeze on gun injury prevention research although the amounts requested are inadequate. Ignorance is not bliss or sensible or sound policy, and in the case of our national gun violence epidemic, ignorance is actually fatal. We need to make decisions based on the truth and counter the NRA misinformation that has been infecting our nation.
It’s time to challenge and deflate NRA misinformation and recognize that it does not speak for most American gun owners or even the majority of its membership. For example, polling data shows that 85 percent of gun owners and 74 percent of NRA members support universal background checks—a policy position the NRA vehemently opposes.
The NRA argues that background checks don’t work. The reality is that criminal background checks do work and making them universal at the federal level would make them far more effective. Since its implementation in 1994, the Brady Law, which instituted a federal background check requirement for sales through licensed dealers, has denied 2.1 million applications to purchase a firearm. But its impact has been limited by the ability of criminals to access firearms through private sales, since only sales by federally licensed dealers require a background check; unlicensed dealers, including those at gun shows and on the Internet and other private sales do not.
An analysis by Mayors Against Illegal Guns reveals that states that don’t require background checks for handgun sales at gun shows export guns used to commit crimes 2.5 times more often than states that do. As much as 40 percent of gun sales may be occurring through these private sales, a loophole that common sense and the vast majority of Americans demand we fix.
Another bit of misinformation from the NRA is that universal background checks will lead to a registry of gun owners. The Brady Law explicitly bans the creation of a gun owner registry, and under that law instant criminal background checks have been made on more than 100 million gun sales in the last decade without leading to the formation of a gun registry.
Here again, misinformation has paralyzed effective gun safety protections. The vast majority of responsible gun owners support background checks because they know that the only people who will be negatively impacted are criminals and those who sell them firearms.
Please do your homework and decide for yourself. Educate yourself on what the NRA wants you to believe by reading the Children’s Defense Fund’s updated fact sheet “The Truth About Guns.” During this Easter recess, go to your members of Congress’ town hall meetings and let your members know that the time to be held hostage to the NRA lobby is over. Let’s break the NRA lock on the research door to learn and share the truth about the human, economic and public safety costs of gun violence in our nation. I believe the truth will set us free.
Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to www.childrensdefense.org.
- Created on 01 April 2013
(YourBlackWorld.com)--A man who once ran the NAACP in Steubenville, Ohio made some comments that have drawn a sharp reaction from women’s rights advocates across the country.
In an interview with the International Business Times, Royal Mayo noted that the victim in the rape case in Steubenville wanted to leave with her attackers, indicating that she may not have been raped. Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, two local high school football stars, were both convicted of raping the woman while she was too drunk to make her own decisions.
“They’re alleging she got raped; she’s acknowledging that she wanted to leave with Trent,” Mayo said. “Her friends say she pushed them away as she went and got into the car, twice telling them, ‘I know what I’m doing; I’m going with Trent.’”
Mayo also referred to the woman as an “alleged victim” drawing the ire of those who feel that the word “alleged” cannot be used for someone after a guilty verdict has been delivered.
“She said her mother brought her to the party, at 3 o’clock, with a bottle of vodka,” Mayo said. “Where did you get it, young lady? You brought it from home? Where’d you get it? You came to the party with your mother.”
Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams took issue with Mayo’s remarks. But there are some across the nation who hear at least some of what Mayo is trying to say. A poster circulating on Facebook says, “Apparently, a teen girl is not responsible for what she does while she’s drunk, but a teen boy is.”
Ms. Williams says that this is no matter, and that Mayo should be ashamed for blaming the victim.
“Apparently in Mayo’s mind, if you leave a party with a boy, you’ve signed off for whatever he may then do to you, even if you’re unconscious,” Williams wrote. “Got vodka in your house? Asking for it.”
Three boys who taped the alleged assault were given immunity in exchange for their testimony. They say that the girl was so drunk that she didn’t know what she was doing. The victim also says that she doesn’t remember what happened that night.
“They kept telling me I was a hassle and they took care of me,” she testified. “I thought I could trust him (Mays) until I saw the pictures and video.”
The NAACP got involved and issued these remarks in response to the statement by Mayo:
“The NAACP abhors the remarks attributed to Royal Mayo regarding the rape victim in the Steubenville. The remarks are Mayo’s own, and do not reflect the position of the NAACP and its membership. Rape is a despicable crime of violence. The NAACP understands that comments that blame victims for the actions of their attackers contribute to and perpetuate a culture of acquiescence to rape. The NAACP advocates strongly for a society where victims of rape and sexual assault can come forward and seek legal redress without further retribution from the community, media or society at large.”
- Created on 01 April 2013
(YourBlackWorld.com)--I’ve always loved Chris Rock. I don’t respect him because he’s funny, rich or famous, everyone notices that. I respect him because he is also intelligent, progressive and courageous. He doesn’t just give Black people something to laugh about. He also gives them something to THINK about.
- Created on 01 April 2013
August 2013 represents the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington. Publicly associated with Dr. King’s famous “I have a Dream” speech, this march brought more than 250,000 people to Washington, D.C. to demand freedom and jobs. Initiated by Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters President A. Philip Randolph, this became a joint project with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and went down in history as a powerful show of force against Jim Crow segregation.
It is barely remembered that the March was for freedom and jobs. The demand for jobs was not a throwaway line in order to get trade union support but instead reflected the growing economic crisis affecting the Black worker.
Over time this great march has risen to levels of near mythology. The powerful speech by Dr. King, replayed—in part—for us every King Day has eclipsed all else, so much so that too many people believe—incorrectly—that the March was King’s march rather than that he was a major player in a project that was much larger than himself.
As August 2013 approaches, it has been noticeable that there has been very limited public discussion regarding an anniversary march to commemorate the 1963 event. What has, apparently, been taking place are a series of closed door discussions regarding some sort of celebratory action. What has been particularly disturbing are the suggestions that any one person, organization, or family can claim the legacy of the March. But, should any one constituency claim that legacy it is a group that does not appear to be at the table: Black labor.
Randolph and other Black labor leaders, particularly those grouped around the Negro American Labor Council, responded to the fact that the Black worker was largely being ignored in the discussions about civil rights. Additionally, the economic situation was becoming complicated terrain for Black workers. As writer Nancy Maclean has pointed out, the elements of what came to be known as “de-industrialization” (which was really part of a reorganization of global capitalism) were beginning to have its effect in the U.S.A., even by 1963. As with most other disasters, it started with a particular and stark impact on Black America.
In 2013 the Black worker has been largely abandoned in most discussions about race, civil rights, etc. As National Black Worker Center Project founder Steven Pitts has repeatedly pointed out, with the economic restructuring that has destroyed key centers of the Black working class strength, much of the economic development that has emerged has either avoided the Black worker altogether or limited the role of the Black worker to the most menial of positions. Thus, unemployment for Black workers remains more than double that of Whites and hovers around Depression levels in many communities.
In 1983, I participated in the 20th anniversary March on Washington. Although it attempted to raise the issues of the day, e.g., the threat of Reaganomics, what could also be seen was the canonization of Dr. King as a central feature for too many of the marchers. One of the worst ways to remember Dr. King, and for that matter the 1963 March, is by canonizing any individual. One of the best ways to remember Dr. King and the March is to use the inspiration from that great day in August 1963 as the energizing force for another round of struggle.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. Follow him at www.billfletcherjr.com.